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MEPs push for Arctic HFO ban

MEPs say the EU should 'speak with one voice' and potentially ban the use and carriage of HFO at EU ports.

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Updated on 02 Feb 2017 15:35 GMT

On 31st January, the European Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) and Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) jointly voted on a draft report - which follows a joint communication in April 2016 by the European Commission (EC) and High Representative to develop a more coherent framework for EU action and funding programmes - proposing an integrated EU Arctic policy in the following priority areas: Climate Change and Safeguarding the Arctic Environment; Sustainable Development in and around the Arctic and International Cooperation on Arctic Issues.

In the Arctic resolution, adopted by 111 votes to 8, with 1 abstention, MEPs stressed that "the EU should speak with one voice and push to keep the Arctic an area of cooperation."

The European Parliament is urging the EC to look at prohibiting vessels from using heavy fuel oil on Arctic maritime routes.

"MEPs also want the Commission and member states to work towards banning the use of heavy fuel oil (HFO) in maritime transport, through the MARPOL convention," the European Parliament said in a statement.

"In case this does not prove feasible, the EU should take measures to prohibit the use and carriage of HFO for vessels calling at EU ports," the European Parliament says MEPs have requested.

The Arctic resolution represents the European Parliament's position regarding the Joint Arctic communication published by the EC and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in April 2016. The resolution is a non-legislative document, which together with similar conclusions by the EU Council is designed to guide future EU policy addressing environmental risks in the Arctic.

Last year's joint communication fell short of calling for a ban on HFO use by ships in the Arctic, but was supportive of environmental protection.

Commenting on this week's resolution, non-profit organisation Clean Arctic Alliance said: "The Clean Arctic Alliance welcomes the clear position by the European Parliament's environment committee, in particular its call for an HFO-free Arctic. Banning heavy fuel oil use by ships operating in the Arctic would reduce both the impact of oil spills and the levels of pollutants which drive the melting of snow and ice in the Arctic. This resolution is a clear message to the International Maritime Organization that European citizens want a ban on the use of HFO in the Arctic adopted by 2020."

Faig Abbasov, shipping policy officer at Transport & Environment, remarked: "We welcome MEPs taking the bold initiative to call for a ban on the use of the world's dirtiest fuel in the Arctic. It's unfortunate that the issue is not even on the IMO's agenda as yet. EU member states should follow the political resolve shown by Europeans' representatives and champion the protection of one of the most vulnerable ecosystems in the world at the IMO."

In December, Bunker Index reported that the United States and Canada had confirmed their commitment to developing a strategy to phase out the use of HFO within the Arctic, and to proposing a related plan to the IMO in 2017.

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